Online maps reach maturity
By Nick Easen for CNN
(CNN) -- There are probably very few business travelers who haven't lost their way at one time or another.
However, with the proliferation of wired and wireless Internet access in airports, hotels, and cafes, finding an online map to locate a meeting place, or business address has never been easier.
In a bid to save time, more and more executives now use online maps to organize their trips, as well as book hotels close to offices and meeting spots.
"The ever-demanding consumer no longer sees online maps as an extra bonus from the most innovative companies, rather they have come to regard them as standard," Willem Mijnarends of Multimap.com told CNN.
"In response, the number of travel Web sites that don't have mapping services is rapidly depleting," says Mijnarends.
Since wireless networks have become more prevalent in the business travel arena, mapping services have also become a lot more portable.
Maps in multiple languages can now easily be downloaded on WAP and PDA devices, as well as interactive TV platforms. Hotels are also getting in on the act of mapping.
"Today's market is tough and companies that want to survive simply must meet consumers' expectations by adding this extra functionality," says Mijnarends.
Online travel services and portals from Travelocity.com to Expedia.com have online maps to compliment their flight, hotel and travel services.
And map Web sites including Maps.com to Mapquest.com now offer travel services to compliment their sites.
And since business travelers spend more time on the Internet, they are also becoming more sophisticated in their use of travel Web sites and online maps, according to Mijnarends.
Business guests who want to step out and find various attractions, shops and restaurants around each InterContinental hotel can now go to maps on their Web site which highlight specific locations.
Thistle hotels in the UK offer step-by-step driving directions and maps to the hotel from an address of their choice, including the return journey.
Users can also choose the quickest or shortest route and are given an indication of the distance and the duration of the journey according to the time of day.
In fact driving instructions have become a major feature of mapping sites, despite the slow download times for certain maps.
In North America, Maps.com provides driving information, as does Multimap in the U.K., which also provides text directions as well.
Multimap is also working on rolling this out across continental Europe.
And if you just want some very general maps for travel statistics, charts and facts, log onto Nationmaster.com, the brainchild of Luke Metcalfe, a Web developer from Sydney, Australia.
He has put together an easy-to-use site that encompasses maps and data on every country in the world.